I’ve been thinking a lot lately on short story writing versus noveling, but I’ll save that for another day, perhaps when I’m done with this book.

Speaking of the book, Harvester/Alchemist/Heloise Book 1 reached 52k this week, although not because I added thousands of new words. While I did some, I also managed to rehab the outline even further, and work in some of the chapters I’d cut out from before, having thought them unusable. It sort of feels like cheating, but given that they fit now, I’m okay with that.

And now I’m very, very close to having no other “safety net” words, and only dozens of blank pages before me. That’s actually been the scary part of this week – dealing the crap my mind throws at me to intimidate me, specifically regarding the Julian chapters and the wrong turns I may potentially take (or have already taken and have yet to realize). What if I don’t even need his point of view? What if I cannot pull off a dual point of view? What if I can’t do the political thing and keep him occupied until he turns into crazy socialist dictator? Far too many what-ifs going on here … and that was this week.

In the chapters to be written/cleaned up this next week, the alloy is going to succeed, and both Heloise and Julian are going to start thinking much, much bigger. Or at least, Julian will, and conniving will become his middle name.

Other super exciting news – John sent Carl the Spider off to Apple! He should hear back in a few days and then it will be up on the App store.

Honestly, I still have a few levels to beat. I think I’ve made it through the Grasslands, the entire first level set, but some of the Winterlands levels are unrelenting. For this impatient player, the result is a lot of yelling and saying words that I probably shouldn’t type, and trying not to throw my phone every time I go too fast and impale Carl on an ice spike. Yet I keep trying, since the levels are just so neat.

I started reading Lauren Beukes’ Zoo City this week. Truthfully, the book has sat on my floor for two months given the hideous large print and how irritating I find it to read. But I pulled it out on Tuesday and within the first page, forgot about the size of the words. While I’m not usually much for noir and am mostly over present tense, neither of things mattered to me once I started reading, and I’m utterly floored at the color of the book. Not so much of Zoo City itself, but of Beukes’ fresh narrative and how she colors even the simplest of actions.

Clarion pal Brooke Bolander has a story up at Strange Horizons this month, one that caused quite a bit of discussion amidst our class; another unique tale well worth the read.

Work continues to be madness – but only seven more weeks of tax season left!

Oh, and this? SO EXCITED FOR IT.

And we’re back!

The quick excuse for my absence? Some seriously ugly nausea and exhaustion for the last four months has bumped this blog to a back burner, as much the rest of my life. But in nineteen more weeks John and I should have a baby girl. Everybody’s telling me the puking is worth it, and that I might even forget about it once Baby Josie’s here, so there you go. At least now I want to drink coffee again.

As if tax season and pregnancy weren’t enough, I’ve given myself nineteen weeks to get the first draft of the first Harvester book finished. I’m at 43k right now, so it’s not entirely unthinkable, although since I’ve yet to hit that momentum stride, most mornings it seems a lofty, ridiculous goal. But I am able to get up at 5 am these days, when I couldn’t a month ago, and I consider that a terrific step forward. I’m intending to use this blog as a check-in for wordcount and momentum, at least weekly, and hopefully that will help me get back in the swing of things. Plus, it’s a place to complain about the issues I’m having.

For example, blocking. That’s been on my mind a lot, given the mistakes I made with the three books before this. All were YA, so not only am I having to do a lot of revising as I actually go in order to keep this from being too Harry Potter, but there where there was previously (in the last books) a lot of waking up in the morning, getting from one place to another, going to sleep, etc…now there’s just me staring at the page, wanting to avoid that issue completely. Problem is, in a lot of places I just don’t know how, especially when Heloise’s City is every bit as much a character as her. So that might be an issue I grow with, or I let it be ugly and wrong as I write, and then go back and fix upon revisions – which is easier said than done.

In the meantime, some worthwhile links:

  • This Lev Grossman article, which vastly encouraged me. I have such strong opinions when it comes to books (and short stories, for that matter) and this was written so eloquently that I found a good deal of encouragement in it, both for the state of the market and the eternal why-do-people-like-the-shit-they-like question.

And because this is Valentine’s Day, some four-legged love.

Title brought to you by one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs from the album The Fragile. I listened to this song on repeat after Mom died. Well, the whole album, really.

My little sister had her first kickboxing match on Saturday. I’m so proud of her, and holy shit does she have a strong right hook. Even if the other girl plays a little dirty about a minute into this first round. Way to go, Krista! (She’s in the pink and black shorts.)

Story idea of the day? Singularity. When it’s not explained. I’ve had that on the brain for a few weeks now after reading this very clever story that danced around the idea without tapping too much into the science of it, and I loved it. Maybe something will come of that in my own writing.

Story to read for the day? “Substitution,” by my terrific friend Brooke Wonders, possibly one of the most ridiculously brainy people I’ve ever met. (The ONLY thing I can possibly out-knowledge her in is short story markets and maybe classical music, if I’m lucky.) This gorgeous tale came out in Daily Science Fiction this month, and is mixed with equal parts lyricism, intelligence, and that uncomfortable emotive note at the end that left me still thinking about it two weeks after my first read. I cannot wait for the day when I can get my hands on Brooke’s first short story collection; the creepy and surreal resonance of her writing is exactly the sort of thing I look for.

I finally finished the beast of a revision of “North like a Star,” my first-week story at Clarion. Cleaned up the drama, but it still needs a good hack and slash, says my first non-Clarion reader, of which I agree. Too many conflicts have overtaken the main inciting incident, so if I can narrow out 3 or so of those and figure out a new reason for why Bellis gets to the factory, the problem might be solved. And, keep the draft under 5k – right now its pushing 6,500 words. The downside is that I despise the story (after two months of trying to get through this revision), so maybe if I put it away for awhile, some of that will take care of itself? Which means its time to pull out Harvester the novel (again – it seems to fluctuate) or write something new; I think I’ve burnt out my revision momentum for awhile.

What I’d really like is to write a flash. Something brief and sweet or sharp, and clever. A palette-wetting read. A palette-wetting write, so I’m up to tackle longer things again, instead if feeling burnt out.

Article of the day? I avoid politics on Facebook and Twitter as much as I can, simply because while I believe as strongly as the next person, there’s no way to convince anyone to change their point of view in a medium like that, especially when I grew up in a state like South Dakota and now live in Oklahoma – I am the minority amidst my peers in both states. But here’s a link to the article more than worth reading; not to pit one political party above another (which the author gets a little dramatic about – I think his point is made without needing to be so excessive?) but because of the truth in it, not the least being our troops are out of Iraq, health care reform has begun (I haven’t yet met one person opposing this who has been personally affected by it or lack of it – of which now John and I can relate), gay rights in the military, and a push to fix the economy, all done against opposition and hate, despite proclaiming to have the same religious beliefs (which honestly baffles me). Anyway, I found the article very encouraging, and lately, I’ve felt hopeful about the state of our country.

What I’d really like for Christmas is a Caribbean vacation. Instead, we’re staying home, and John’s family is coming over for mimosas and brunch. Then, we’ll likely join the rest of the city at the movie theater? We’ll see – happy Holidays to all!

Oh, I do have a blog.

In the last month (and in no particular order), I’ve had two coworkers quit, another replacement hired only to quit three days later, job responsibilities increase, my father get remarried, multiple people in my life diagnosed with ugly things like cancer, and more news that will eventually get shared, time permitting. It’s not been an easy nor pleasant November, but now its December, and I love the cold(er) weather and hope we get snow this afternoon. And that things eventually become sunny and lovely again, even in winter.

But the real reason for this update – some excellent fiction.

Chris Stabback, a fellow Clarionaut from this last year, published a story in Clarkesworld which is up today. Gave me chills when I first read it, and inspired me. Nothing is better than a story that inspires you to write one of your own.

Caitlyn R. Kiernan’s collection Two Worlds and In Between has as few remaining collections left on Amazon (I’d bought mine directly from Subterranean Press). This is hands down the best collection I’ve ever read – and considering that I own nearly as many anthologies as books, that’s a pretty lofty statement. And, it’s her early work. But it’s a must-have, in addition to being a stunning hardback book.

I’d also be amiss not to mention the Lightspeed Year One book, also available, which is also quite gorgeous, and full of excellent reads – both originals from Lightspeed and reprints from our first year. I’m very pleased with it, as it well represents all the work we’ve done there and the great words that have been shared!

More soon – happy holidays!

My father’s dog Oscar, who helped him get through the two years and two months so far without Mom, was hit by a car last night. My initial thought is that I should be sad but still okay, because Osky had a good life if too short. At least Dad was able to say goodbye to him, and the little guy went as peacefully as he probably could have, for the kind of trauma something like this could cause. But in reality, I’m broken up about it. Perhaps it’s because I loved Osky. Not only was he an all-around fantastic dog, but he was there for Dad in a way I could not be, right after Mom died. Or maybe it’s because now that we have our own furry children, I’m not sure what I’ll do if and when we lose one of them. Or maybe it’s just the bizarre timing of the whole thing.

My brother gave Oscar to my parents about six months before Mom died. They didn’t want another dog, but Josh and Denae surprised them anyway with a happy golden retriever/lab mix, only this puppy had a bit of a boxer snout, and he was a puppy. The sweetest little guy you’d ever seen. And while neither Dad or Mom were initially thrilled about a 8-month old puppy to take care of, Osky turned into the greatest gift in the world when Mom died, with his joy and bouncing and furry face, and just the sweetest personality. He went everywhere with Dad, sleeping under his desk in the clinic office on the weekends, waiting patiently in the car after driving together into town to visit the bookstore and the bank and the hardware store, sleeping all stretched out across the back seat when he wasn’t allowed to come inside. Most of Dad’s regular patients had met Osky at least once, if not a dozen times, and Osky loved to kiss all the nurses at the office.

And now, a month before Dad gets married again, Osky’s gone. He was so clearly meant to help my dad through his grief, through the last two years and two months without Mom.

I really believe Osky saved Dad from losing his mind those first few months, and somehow managed to bring him crazy joy through the grieving process. And I see every day how happy Buddy and Nellie are when John and I come home, how they live their furry little doggy lives in anticipation of the garage door opening, bouncing like deer up and down the hallway, the way Osky did through the fields at home.

Osky, you were one of the best, and you will be dearly, dearly missed.

And it’s here! The latest Coeur de Lion anthology, Anywhere but Earth, is now available in your preferred format. The reason why you should buy it? Because this is the same publisher that brought the specfic community a little novella anthology called X6 (some of my ranting about X6 here), and AbE is bound to bring the quality. Plus, some terrific authors in it, with twenty-nine brand-new science fiction stories, including my “Lisse.” Win, all the way around. I think I may need to buy an e-book for my iPad, too, although I’ll eventually get the snail-mail one when its shipped from the other side of the world. But I’m delighted and honored to be part of such good company.

As for current wips – work is still crazy busy, but I’ve managed to break 30k on the first of the Harvester novels. Or perhaps they should be called The Resplendent City novels? I’m not that far along for a decision like that, and my progress feels slow enough as it is. But with an additional pov added to Heloise’s, I’ve got a lot to work with, including politics, which overwhelms me, but one step at a time, right?

I’ve also cleaned up another story written right before Clarion, and I’m very happy with it. It may not find a market due to its horror-y aspects combined with the fantastical, but we’ll see. And I’ve started revisions on the first week Clarion story, but for some reason that’s turned out to be tedious.

The  real news here, aside from AbE, is that this house is finally ours! Closing was on Friday, Saturday we purchased a dining room table, and next week we start painting. I’m so very, very relieved its over, and that we can really settle in. Eventually, I’ll be able to say it was worth the wait, I’m sure. Pictures to come, once these walls are painted!

Happy Monday!

Saying it like it is, this fine Monday morning.

John and I went to see the movie Real Steel on Saturday, and for me, it was the best movie I’ve seen yet this year. The robots just left me speechless – perhaps because I’ve been waiting to write a really good robot story. I planned to at Clarion, but never got to it, and its been burning in the back of my brain since…well, any time I glance at my bookshelf and see Tanith Lee’s Silver Metal Lover and Metallic Love, both of which I adore like nothing else. Oh, and let’s not forget Electric Forest. Just wow. The way Lee paints obsession, and the non-human humanity of metal flesh (and affinity for).

Soon. I’ve got to write that one soon.

Anyway, the movie was just fantastic. I know, another father-son redemption story, but the son was just so spunky (although the female lead drove me nuts – how many times did she REALLY need to say the main character’s name when talking to him? Writer’s fault, there. But … she just seemed to try too hard. Her character, anyway, and the romance felt contrived. Although by the end she seemed to feel more organic to the story – in a typical woman sidekick way.) And I was very, very glad they didn’t push the “this robot is different because he’s real! cliche.” That would have been so disappointing.

So yes, go see.

Next up: Breaking Bad.

Apparently, this show started in 2008, but I haven’t really heard of it (or anyone raving about it, for that matter) until my friend Brooke started tweeting her love for it. Needless to say, John and I are hooked. Fantastic writing, fantastic acting, and the drama is actually a little too much for me at times – I’m in a constant state of tension watching it, so I may need a little break from it soon. As soon as I find out what happens next. But there’s not another show on right now that’s grabbed me in the same way – Walking Dead season 2 premieres next week, and while I loved the first 3 or so episodes of season 1, it petered out fast, so I have my doubts with that (despite the fantastic preview, which makes me want to sit and write a zombie story NOW. Still appealing, despite the over-and-done-with of the craze). And no Game of Thrones until….next year? So that leaves us with … Family Guy. Not really the same thing.

Let’s see – Embassytown, by Mievelle. I couldn’t even get through the last thirty pages, and so I finally put it down. Not enough character for me – I need a seriously zoomed-in-on protagonist, and Avice (best name EVER) was never accessible. And now that I think about it, nor was the physical world. Too much…technical detail. I think I’m just not the best reader for it, although I did see its genius.

So I’ve brought with me today Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and VanderMeer’s Finch, the latter a reread, because I’m craving dystopia/post-apocolyptia, per the usual. And because I need novels right now, as I work through Harvester the book, and to soak in as much as I can in terms of chapter to chapter motion, larger themes, and drawing all of that together in a seamless (and coherent) fashion.

Yesterday, I outlined the entirety of the first book including the male protag – it felt good to get that done. A 90k book, give or take, which is a little overwhelming (despite the fact that my first 2 were over 120k, 120k disasters) given the content I want to make sure comes through. How does one (e.g. a person like me) actually, successfully, depict the end of civilization as Heloise knows it? Especially a civilization like the Resplendent City of Free Living?

Probably a paragraph at a time. An image at a time. A thread at a time. Patiently. (Which is not something I carry around in abundance.)

Anything I didn’t cover? Oh, I’ve started a blood elf mage in WoW – their ability to one-shot others is just too brutal/impressive not to. And since I have leveling gear, it should go fast. And, I’ve been wanting to play some Bioshock and Borderlands again. Perhaps because I have been thinking about my first Clarion short, “North like a Star,” and wanting desperately to revise it – the Borderlands world, the raw violence of it, bears comparison to Bellis’ world.

Pumpkin. Pumpkin everything. I also have that on the brain. There’s a fantastic new grocery store here, with beautiful organic produce, so I bought quite a bit of it and hope to cook it all this week – lovely chards & greens & mushrooms & leeks and so much more…perhaps tonight the Veggie Potpie Stew from Appetite for Reduction, after a run. It’s 70 degrees today! Maybe we’ll get a real fall here.

Happy Monday!

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